Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Art of Negotiation for Massage Therapists by Irma Romano

It wasn’t until I decided to launch my new business We Got Your Back Toronto that the art of negotiation really kicked in for me. My new business will be replacing sick, quit on the spot, extra hands required type of scenario in the city of Toronto starting November first this year. My business template will be implemented all across Canadian cities geared towards resorts and spas. The rate will be a 70/30 split on the hourly rates the spa has on the menu for the massage therapist and a 80/20 split on weekends and holidays. There will be an administration fee for the office which will likely make the therapist a minimum of eighty five dollars an hour or more with a minimum hourly rate of three hours and maximum of five depending on each massage therapist’s limitations and desires. They will also be charged the day of service.

In a world where most therapists in Toronto have had a wage reduction with an increasing charge to the clients starting at one hundred and twenty dollars an hour and the chains of fast food types of businesses have popped up leaving the therapist a non- livable wage even if they live at home with mom and dad it was time for a change. Long gone are the days of eating mac and cheese and ramen noodles after working forty hours a week at a twenty-something hourly rate, or less being exploited with a schedule that is too little or too big leaving you with over used injuries and an empty wallet. What’s in your wallet? Dust mites and a maxed out credit card?

Not every massage therapist wants to open a clinic or a space of their own and if they do they are at least calling the shots doing massages on their terms. This is the vision I have for all massage therapist where a profession with such high professional fees and where the demand is on the increase by the public I say it’s time to see the massage therapist get a living wage. Unlike nurses who benefit from a standard wage and union decreasing exploitation and burnt out we haven’t had anyone protect the massage therapist who is often too afraid to speak up and negotiate. Here in Canada we are lucky that our clients are covered in most jobs for massage therapy. It’s a no brainer. The spas really want your license numbers which gives them permission to charge the big bucks and have a very lucrative business. Millions of dollars a year are made and thousands a month by burning everyone out.  Who pays the 700 dollar a year fees that we have to pay?  That also becomes our burden.

Negotiations is an opinion you hold in your mind about how much something costs and how much you think you should get paid. Twenty-odd dollars an hour with no benefits is not a life for our professionals. I would think we are at least worth fifty if not more in a day and age where homes cost a lung and kidney and the cost of living has also doubled. So why are we walking backwards? I really challenge you out there if you are making only ten dollars an hour or a bit more to think about why you are crawling on your hands and knees and starving yourself to death? Maybe your addicted to pain and drama?  Seriously you should consider a job at Starbucks for a better wage and please stop telling yourself it’s a steady income. It’s a steady income of starvation and anything else you do will be more profitable including dog walking. Other medical professionals make much more and drive off into the sunset with their BMW why not us? Why not us? I have to witness my colleagues get rid of their cars and having to cut back on groceries and rent to make it or work at four different jobs. At a tuition cost of twelve thousand dollars a year not counting other fees and a two to three year sacrifice and board exams including having to show the college every three years our continued education at a cost of an average of three hundred dollars a course why can’t we be respected finally? We also have to work along aestheticians who have a three week massage course and get exploited even more but the client pays the same?  We make everyone else rich but ourselves. Its 2012 already lets step out of the dark ages together.

If your faucets are leaking and you call the plumber does he send you an invoice or do you tell him how much it will cost? We are in a position where we need to let employers know how much we cost, especially in seasonal remote locations. Bring your terms and conditions and have them sign it or walk out. If we all did this together than they would have no other choice.  Aim high nothing under eighty-five dollars or a 70/30 split on their hourly rate if you value your hands and your family, but most of all yourself. Set your limits where you feel comfortable. Only slaves ask for permission for days off, vacations, and the permission on a pay rate or how many massages they can do.  Are you a slave or a professional? Do you want to see your fellow therapists do well like yourself and make a buck or are you in it for just yourself?  If a spa charges one hundred and twenty dollars an hour and more but you only see twenty dollars of it whose fault is it? You just cheated yourself out of another forty thousand dollars a year so imagine what you could do with that money?  If they test the bar and see that massage therapists take the abuse they will feel like they can keep rolling back the wages and they do because they can. I’ll do it for two dollars an hour? Why not for a loonie? When do we stop giving our power away? Twenty dollars an hour after five hours is only 115 dollars for your day leaving the spa with 485 dollars your hands killing you and your wallet empty. Forty five dollars an hour when a spa charges one hundred and sixty is still no improvement.   What would your life look like at eighty five dollars an hour or more? Do you want to go home with a minimum of five hundred dollars a day? You can and it is possible you just have to claim it. Don’t complain just claim it and tell them what you want and you will be given your fair shake. Live in fear and you will limit yourself financially and emotionally. It is your hands and your license do what you want with them they feed you and clothe you or maybe they won’t it always up to you. Unlike Cinderella we do not have fairy godmothers that will come save the day.  Don’t be afraid to negotiate and ask right out of college for your fair share of income.

Don’t let anyone tell you that sitting, waiting for a walk in is your job when they are not paying you anything no one works for free, or that you should be making forty-five or fifty dollars an hour it’s all up to you when no one is paying your benefits and you have to pay for your taxes, and make sure your covered if you get injured which our profession is at a higher risk of doing. Who is paying for your medical expenses if you fall and break your arm? If you live in a major city in the United States you can implement my business motto and see how well you do for yourself. Here in Toronto like in New York, Chicago, Boston, LA etc., there are more than two hundred spas sprawling everywhere paying very little and keeping too much. You can set your own rules and make a great living. Again it really is up to you to go out there and make a difference for yourself and others so what are you waiting for? If you’re an aesthetician here is your chance to work in more than one place at your rate and also make your profession a lucrative one setting your limits to facials, make-up and nails.  Let me know how you are making a difference in the massage profession and how you think we can improve our future with your tips and ideas.

What would a union do for all registered massage therapists in Canada?
It would insure the end of exploitation and abuse in the spa and clinical industry across the country. First it would define what full- time is and what part-time hours are. Our profession is not like an office job and full-time is 20 to 25 hours a week with full benefits. No therapist would be hired for fewer than sixty five dollars an hour and we could eliminate tipping which usually goes missing anyways. We would be entitled to benefits, vacation pay, unemployment benefits and sick benefits and it would also mean we would be paid for walk- INS and not expected to wait around for free. It would give a guideline of what our duties are. The profession would finally be recognized and respected as what it is a medical much in demand profession by the public.